Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, reliance on online courses surged, leading to significant transformations in the traditional academic landscape. Even post-pandemic, this trend continues globally, with new platforms emerging to provide students with a diverse array of courses, both academic and non-academic, aimed at enhancing their skill development and technical proficiency. Similarly, lifestyle influencers have also capitalised on this trend, leveraging various social media platforms to disseminate their ideas and promote their training programmes, bootcamps, courses, and more, in order to expand their brand reach.
The widespread accessibility of information technology and the online monetisation system have significantly expanded financial opportunities. This has led to a surge in the number of online course sellers and influencers. Additionally, private partnerships with various businesses for product or service advertisements have further boosted earning potential, contributing to the growing numbers of online course sellers and influencers. How shall we evaluate these people and their ideas before jumping on consuming them?
Having a look at the overall online course reviews, certain courses get higher acceptability where some are said not to be informative enough as these are stated before enrolling. Lack of proper information, plagiarism, mismatching to the practical environment are some common shortfalls to those courses. Courses containing effective and efficient contents will definitely play a significant role in the life of the pupils, while slighter and basic contents bearing courses should be rethought before enrolling them. Students or professionals who take these courses should be careful lest not to reduce their enthusiasm to learning. Trusts can erode among young learners if these courses fail to live up to their promises.
One of the questions which a student should ask himself/herself is-- should I really need this course for my life or I am just influenced to do so by flashier advertisements or attracted by friends or any other person? In many cases, students are indifferent to their actual goal of life and take actions impulsively. In that situation he/she may be influenced to enrol in an online course which actually will not help him/her in life. So, evaluating the content of any course and matching it to his cherished dream and its requirements are important before enrolling there.
Often the course sellers add some promises including 'guaranteed success', 'confirmation to work', 'surety of effectiveness' etc. Before anyone believes in these online educators or lifestyle influencers, people need to talk to active professionals directly to ask what are actually needed to achieve their expected results. For example- if anyone wants to be a successful freelancer, he/she can start with free online resources first on YouTube and talk to the professionals in the field before spending money online. Even after doing these, they should evaluate the course materials, tutor's credentials, reviews, etc.
There also have been scenarios where the person selling the course promises it will be beneficial for students even if they are not really experts in that field. They might be good at talking and have some experience, but they may not actually be actively working in that area. This raises a question: how can they guarantee success in something they're not actively involved in?
To effectively assess a course before enrolling, it is important to ensure that it aligns with your learning objectives and offers valuable content for your development. Do not be swayed by flattering language or superficial promises; prioritise substance and genuine value. If the course meets your criteria and provides meaningful learning opportunities, then it is worth considering enrollment. Remember, the goal is to invest in courses that contribute to your personal or professional growth, rather than being lured by empty promises.
When it comes to lifestyle influencers, it is important to be cautious. Following advice blindly can lead to problems, especially if it promotes unhealthy habits. Young people, in particular, might be influenced by these lifestyle theories from local or global influencers without realising the potential consequences. It is essential to critically evaluate the advice and ensure it aligns with your well-being or own judgement. In sum, do not believe everything you hear from serial podcasters who are living on selling controversial or popular content.
At times, influencers offer suggestions on topics that are already well-known, basic, or no longer relevant. Their primary aim is to gain popularity by sharing obvious content, aiming for easy likes and views. Subsequently, they transition to monetising their online brand by endorsing various products or services. Companies often blindly hire them due to their large follower base, which further fuels their success. However, this cycle can have negative societal impacts if these content creators lack strong ethical standards. Therefore, it is crucial for individuals to critically analyse such people and their content. Additionally, there should be governmental intervention to regulate these influencers, rather than blindly promoting them solely because they are seen as youth icons.
Influencers and course sellers often highlight the monetary gains of certain activities, despite not having extensive experience in those fields. If they possess the necessary skills and are financially successful in those areas, why not pursue freelancing or that profession full-time instead of focusing on content sales? The harsh reality is that content selling often yields easier financial returns than consistent involvement in the field, primarily due to the abundance of young individuals in Bangladesh lacking proper guidance or support.
We must acknowledge that there are good content creators, course sellers and influencers as well. They should come up and speak about the reality of things.
Influencers and course sellers should be cautious in making too many promises that can confuse and mislead people. It might paint a false picture and cause problems later on. It is important to clearly explain the reality of things so people can make smart choices. This helps course sellers and influencers earn trust and bring positive value to society in the long run.
From the country's perspective, a well-rounded policy should be implemented centrally to ensure students receive quality education and stay updated on the latest technology.
It is important to acknowledge that students might be drawn to alternative platforms if their academic institutions do not offer these resources adequately. To enhance students' academic prowess and critical thinking skills, it is essential to provide teachers with proper training, update technological resources in institutions, and offer grooming sessions led by mentors. This approach will empower students to excel in both their academic and professional endeavours.
Tanjim Hasan Patwary is an MBA student at the Department of Banking and Insurance at University of Chittagong.